January 19, 1985 — Kanagawa
2000/04/16 ~ 2005/05/07
Ishikawa: I used to be very shy and reserved and I hated being the center of attention. But when I joined Morning Musume, my personality changed completely.
— It’s true that there was this “gloominess” about you in the early days.
Ishikawa: I was about to graduate from junior high school, so timing-wise it felt right to commemorate that by applying for the auditions. I had decided that it was going to be my first and only audition — if I didn’t make it, I was going to just enjoy my normal high school life. I was of course a big fan of Morning Musume, but never in a million years did I think I would myself end up singing and dancing in public, not to mention doing comedy sketches on variety TV and stuff.
— So you didn’t feel confident about passing the audition?
Ishikawa: Not at all. I really wasn’t thinking about it that deeply though. Early Morning Musume songs and choreographies were so mature, but with “LOVE Machine” the style suddenly changed and they started doing more dance music that everyone could have fun and dance along to. Basically I just thought, “maybe even I could do that.”
February 22, 2001 — Saitama
Yokoyama: I first became aware of the group’s existence with Morning Musume 14’s “wake-up prank.” Because I only discovered them so late, I might not know as much about the group as the other members. Nevertheless, I sincerely felt that this was where I wanted to be and I personally applied for the auditions on my own, and thus I’m determined to do my best as a member of Morning Musume.
The Pressure of the Legendary 6th Generation
— It was announced in the lyrics of the Morning Musume ’17 version of “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari” that you are the “second generation Reina,” being the successor of the name.
Yokoyama: I have never once met Tsunku♂. I’ve never been able to meet him in-person, and I’ve never gotten the opportunity of being taught anything by him. So being suddenly named the “second generation Reina” in the lyrics of “Kashimashi,” considering I hadn’t even met Tanaka Reina at the time and especially considering how she is one of the true legends of Morning Musume… it was a huge source of pressure for me.
— Was it something you became more conscious of once you were literally named the “second generation”?
Yokoyama: If anything, I felt that I shouldn’t just try to copy my predecessor. Tanaka was known for her crisp, powerful voice, which is something I don’t have. Instead, I consciously try to sing in a cute voice. But setting aside me being the “second generation” Reina, I’m just trying to be the version of me that suits me the best.
October 7, 1999 — Shizuoka
Nonaka: When I joined the group, I got to read a message from Tsunku♂. It said: “please become the bridge between Morning Musume and the overseas.” I believe that is the reason for me now being in Morning Musume.
The Global Representative
Broadcasting to the World
— Previous members in Morning Musume’s 20-year history include Junjun and Linlin, the two exchange students from China. However, you’re the first member who is also a “returnee” to Japan, and you have been appointed the role of the group’s “global representative.”
Nonaka: Morning Musume performs concerts overseas as well, and I believe that whenever we do, that’s when I have to step in. First of all, it’s important for us to communicate with the overseas fans and accurately convey to them what it is we want to say. If I can’t do that properly, then there was no meaning behind me joining the group.
— You were very busy at the group’s 2016 events in Houston, USA.
Nonaka: It was my first time visiting America after moving back to Japan at the age of 10, so I was glad about that and I had a lot of fun. I did interpreting for the members during handshake events, and I could communicate directly with the reporters when we did press interviews. I was proud that I could make use of my ability.
November 11, 1989 — Fukuoka
2003/01/19 ~ 2013/05/21
Tanaka: “Oh, you’re that girl from last time!” It gave me so much courage when Tsunku♂ said those words to me.
— It’s a well-known story: you first took part in the 5th generation auditions while misrepresenting your age.
Tanaka: I completely ignored the age limit and applied, thinking only about how I wanted to be in Morning Musume. If only I’d gotten into the group at that time, I could’ve stood on-stage with Goto Maki. That’s the one thing I never got to accomplish as a member of Morning Musume.
— So you were aiming for this path because of your admiration for Goto Maki. From what I understand, however, you were quite the “bad girl” back in your hometown.
Tanaka: I didn’t even know what that was supposed to mean. Although I did attend my junior high entrance ceremony with my hair dyed blond… But still, my hometown was very peaceful. My teachers were helpful and my parents raised me very well. I was rather well-respected, you know.
May 7, 1999 — Hokkaido
Sato: Even on the very day I was accepted into the group, they were angry with me. My mom and dad had never gotten angry with me as they raised me, and yet, when I was at the training camp or when I was accepted as a member… the staff were constantly angry with me. I didn’t even understand why — I just thought, “I guess adults all just hate me.“
The Airheaded Girl from Hokkaido
— When you first applied for the auditions, you weren’t even particularly a fan of Morning Musume, were you?
Sato: I didn’t know much about them. There was a leaflet about the audition at my ballet school, so I looked them up and watched “Maji desu ka Ska!” Sayashi Riho’s dancing was incredible, Tanaka Reina’s singing was so pretty, and my parents suggested I give it a shot and see what this world is all about. So I just applied without much thought behind it.
— What with everyone else around you being so serious about it, I would imagine you felt a little out-of-place…
Sato: The auditions lasted for around half a year, and I was just thinking about how long it was taking. They got unbelievably angry with me at the training camp. My mom had sent me off there, telling me to go and have fun. And so even though I was only trying to have some fun, they wouldn’t let me at all.
May 28, 1998 — Hiroshima
2011/01/02 ~ 2015/12/31
Sayashi: Back when I was still a kindergartener and I had no vision for my future whatsoever, I got to dance at the center of the stage at our arts festival to “Go Girl ~Koi no Victory~.” I had a lot of people complimenting me and I had so much fun doing it. It made me feel like I was glowing. That was the moment I decided: “I want to be in Morning Musume!“
— That Morning Musume song is what started it all for you.
Sayashi: I told my parents that I wanted to start dancing, and I’m from a very music-loving family so they immediately agreed and I enrolled in an “actors school” in Hiroshima.
— From the very beginning you were dancing in the center at your arts festival, and you were very active at your actors school as well. It does sound like you had a natural talent for dancing to begin with…
Sayashi: Not at all. But I did get to often be in the center at my actors school as well, so that was a big source of confidence for my young self. I’m someone who’s always quick to get bored of things, but dancing was different — I just couldn’t stop. I became convinced that dancing was my most treasured thing in life.
August 8, 1981 — Hokkaido
1997/09/14 ~ 2005/01/30
Iida: You know, the “nee, waratte” in “Daite HOLD ON ME!“… That expression on my face was just me doing my best. I’m someone who is usually making no progress despite really trying my best…
— But you doing was something that became another hot topic for followers of the group.
Iida: Wada, our manager at the time, was coming up with all sorts of strategies to boost Morning Musume’s popularity. He would always tell us to talk more so they would show us on TV for longer. So when we were appearing on music programs, that’s what I would always be focused on — talking more. But it wasn’t working… the cameras weren’t pointed at me, so I felt like I was danger. “Oh no! They’re not going to give me any airtime all!” And that’s why I went too far. That’s why I was established as being the “weird one.”
— This time around, though, you giving it your all did produce results.
Iida: It came as a total surprise to me, too. That’s why I decided to throw away my “orthodox idol” image and choose the screen time instead. (laughs) Tsunku♂ apparently felt that I didn’t have to play the role of the comedian if I didn’t want to, but it wasn’t something I was really doing consciously.
November 7, 1994 — Tokyo
Iikubo: Even now I still have no idea why I was accepted. (laughs) Tsunku♂ listed a couple of reasons for picking me. “You have a pure personality, an aura that stands out, and your singing is good.” None of those descriptions feel like they quite fit me… (laughs)
10th Generation’s Eldest Daughter
— He may have gotten that from your gentle way of speaking and that unique atmosphere you have about you.
Iikubo: I used to not really understand what people meant when they said things like that about me. But looking back on our old footage now, I suppose it is quite rare to come across a 2nd grade high schooler from Tokyo who’s that naive. Maybe that’s what he meant by “pure.”
— Was that due to the environment you were raised in?
Iikubo: No. I believe I received a perfectly normal upbringing, and I did have those gyaru-types around me, too. We had a strict curfew in my household… but that’s pretty much it.